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I woke up in the middle of the night yesterday to a familiarly sore throat. Barely half-awake, I began to panic. I recognized the pain in the back of my throat every time I swallowed, and for a long time I contemplated reaching for all of the cough drops in my bedside drawer. But, I was half asleep so I just lay there hoping it was all in my head.

Sure enough, it was NOT. Yesterday morning, as soon as I could muster the energy to hop out of bed, I headed to the Farmacia across the street. I was confident I could beat this, because I knew what it must be. I didn’t dare actually admit it, though I knew I’d dealt with similar symptoms in both Italy and Texas. In Italy, the pharmacists had “cured” me with some sort of healing spray. (In retrospect, I waited for things to get very bad before going to the pharmacist, so I may have really just healed myself by that point..) In Texas, I had again waited slightly too long to be treated, as I was unwilling to take days off work. After teaching to the point of losing my voice from the pain, I eventually went to the doctor and was out for the next couple of days. The culprit?? Strep, I’m embarrassed to say.

This time, I tried the spray and some fancy Spanish cough drops. But when I awoke with greater pain in the middle of the night again last night, I knew I had to take action. So, I went to the doctor for the first time in Spain. Oh, what an adventure.

Lucky for adult-me-who-had-insurance-through-her-prior-employer-instead-of-parents-but-is-now-on-her-own, Fulbright provides some form of health insurance for us! So I grabbed my insurance card and passport and took the metro over to the Hospital de Madrid. My first step was to ask to speak with a Hospiquality rep. Hospiquality is this awesome program that allows people from out of state to be paired with an English-speaking, hospital-genius here. I met my rep, who got all of my insurance papers in order for me. From that point on, he was with me throughout the whole appointment as a guide and translator.

Now, I had made it clear as day that I probably had strep and just wanted a rapid strep test to be sure please. Because doctors love self-diagnosing patients, right? First, I saw the ER doctor. He took a look at my throat and explained to the students who were with him that my throat looked inflamed and I probably had a viral infection.

I was pretty damn confused. I was sure it was bacterial. Why? Because, I had the same thing last time this year and because I have no other symptoms that would point to anything viral. No runny nose, no watery eyes, no fever. Just a horribly achy throat. Dr. 1 decides I should see the in-house ENT, just to be sure. Thank goodness.

So my Hospiquality buddy and I head up to the ENT where there is a bit of a wait. When I finally get in, the ENT takes one look at my throat and determines its bacterial. (Can someone please notify the now mis-informed medical students?) However, he says there is no way to tell what kind of bacteria and that it doesn’t matter….It could be strep….It could be something else…But it’s definitely bacterial and I’ve got to take antibiotics. Not only that, he wants me back in there in about a month for a blood test to see if maybe I have some remnant protein from a previous infection that will later cause heart problems. Great news for a gal so far from home..!

I’m pretty sure this is when I started to, unintentionally, offend him. I really, really dislike antibiotics. I understand the need for them, but if you are telling me to take them without doing any sort of test…..not a fan. I desperately turned to my Hospiquality friend — “can he please just do a rapid strep test, to be sure?”

ENT’s response? “Well, that’s going to take 12 days just to get the results! It doesn’t make sense to wait to start treatment.”

Yea folks, rapid strep test? Not a thing here. So, here I am taking antibiotics for the next 6 days and hoping for the best. It’s almost becoming tradition – strep the week after my birthday. Cherry on top? I’ll be in Barcelona this weekend. You do the math.

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